Effectiveness of artificial intelligence vs. human coaching in diabetes prevention: a study protocol for a randomized controlled trial.

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BACKGROUND: Prediabetes is a highly prevalent condition that heralds an increased risk of progression to type 2 diabetes, along with associated microvascular and macrovascular complications. The Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) is an established effective intervention for diabetes prevention. However, participation in this 12-month lifestyle change program has historically been low. Digital DPPs have emerged as a scalable alternative, accessible asynchronously and recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Yet, most digital programs still incorporate human coaching, potentially limiting scalability. Furthermore, existing effectiveness results of digital DPPs are primarily derived from per protocol, longitudinal non-randomized studies, or comparisons to control groups that do not represent the standard of care DPP. The potential of an AI-powered DPP as an alternative to the DPP is yet to be investigated. We propose a randomized controlled trial (RCT) to directly compare these two approaches.

METHODS: This open-label, multicenter, non-inferiority RCT will compare the effectiveness of a fully automated AI-powered digital DPP (ai-DPP) with a standard of care human coach-based DPP (h-DPP). A total of 368 participants with elevated body mass index (BMI) and prediabetes will be randomized equally to the ai-DPP (smartphone app and Bluetooth-enabled body weight scale) or h-DPP (referral to a CDC recognized DPP). The primary endpoint, assessed at 12 months, is the achievement of the CDC's benchmark for type 2 diabetes risk reduction, defined as any of the following: at least 5% weight loss, at least 4% weight loss and at least 150 min per week on average of physical activity, or at least a 0.2-point reduction in hemoglobin A1C. Physical activity will be objectively measured using serial actigraphy at baseline and at 1-month intervals throughout the trial. Secondary endpoints, evaluated at 6 and 12 months, will include changes in A1C, weight, physical activity measures, program engagement, and cost-effectiveness. Participants include adults aged 18-75 years with laboratory confirmed prediabetes, a BMI of ≥ 25 kg/m

DISCUSSION: Prediabetes is a significant public health issue, necessitating scalable interventions for the millions affected. Our pragmatic clinical trial is unique in directly comparing a fully automated AI-powered approach without direct human coach interaction. If proven effective, it could be a scalable, cost-effective strategy. This trial will offer vital insights into both AI and human coach-based behavioral change strategies in real-world clinical settings.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT05056376. Registered on September 24, 2021, https://clinicaltrials.gov/study/NCT05056376.

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